Register, to determine a study deadline, procure and use practice materials. Study enough that my practice scores safely exceed the target “GMAT average” at my school of choice. Take the GMAT (repeat if necessary, many applicants take it twice) and exceed my target score. Fill out the application, get admitted.
Okay, so that was the plan after 2 minutes of pondering over a beer, and then I toasted myself on start of the journey. Actually settling into a study routine probably took weeks. Selecting my favorite B-school was fun and exciting, choosing the doorway to my world of opportunity, et cetera. By contrast, the whole GMAT test process was purgatorial, from buying expensive practice books to completing the last section at the test center. Actually, the essay sections were relatively satisfying, but I didn’t have to do drills over and over again to write a decent essay. Two basic pointers on the essays helped to take the edge off.
One: With either type of essay, try to follow a basic 5-paragraph format. There should be an intro that states the given situation and foreshadows the conclusion of at least three supporting paragraphs. Conclude with a summarizing point, or cohesive statement.
Two: Write as much as you possibly can without rambling.
There’s downloadable material, but for good old-fashioned studying, I liked having books to literally crack. To get the best score possible, I would have planned to spend at least a month going over at least one section of the test every day. The GMAT did not rule my life, though, I was busy traversing the cold dry desert of winter job opportunities. To make a boring story short, I did a few different tests from each major source: Kaplan, Princeton Review, and the “Official Guide for GMAT Review.”
ETS, the testing company, owns the “official” content, and their explanations of answers are the best. It’s worth the money, and it’s the source to use if you insist on only using one. Compared to the “official” questions, Princeton Review’s were easier. I liked their book, though, because the explanations of fundamental quantitative and verbal concepts are solid. Kaplan’s questions are harder, but their explanations aren’t as good.
In retrospect, I should have actually gone over math texts, like the one I have to use, half a year after the exam, for calculus. [slide-whistle noise] The moral of the story is that sooner or later, an MBA student needs to demonstrate fairly advanced math skills. I might as well have gotten comfy with derivatives, logs, and bizarre area problems before taking the GMAT.
Correction: “The GMAT is owned by the Graduate Management Admission Council and is administered for GMAC by Pearson VUE. It is GMAC, the organization that owns the test, that issues the 'Official Guide to GMAT Review.'" - Written in by Bob Ludwig, Director, External Communications for GMAT
He also mentioned the free downloads of the exam available when you register for the GMAT at mba.com.
Additional clarification: Educational Testing Service (ETS) only developed and administered the exam until the end of 2006, but I would assume that the “official” material is still the most reliable.